“But you’re not ‘really’ black, right?”

Danielle Petterson,
Tampa, FL.

I have light brown skin and I consider myself to be mixed. Most people have a simple-minded belief that “mixed” means that one parent is black while the other is white. To me, it runs so much deeper than that. I have 4 grandparents from 4 different countries: Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Guyana, and the US. Therefore, my background is a mix of Puerto Rican, Dutch Caribbean, and Native North and South American Indian: THAT’S what I mean by mixed. However, I don’t speak Spanish, Dutch, Papiamento, or any other languages my ancestors may have spoken, I was born and raised in Florida, I check “African-American” on applications and surveys, and since race and ethnicity are two separate things, yes, I really am black. I am not obligated to answer the question “What are you, really?” with a full explanation of my family background and my many ethnicities. My mother, with skin lighter than me, considers herself to be black and my father, who is darker, considers himself to be black, thus I am black. Yes, really.


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